Monday, November 14, 2005

Death Row Support Project

Friends --

Here is an example of a ministry that started small and has a large impact in the lives of individual people -- the Death Row Support Project.  Have you ever thought of corresponding with someone who is on death row?

More information is below -- read on!


Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

The Death Row Support Project (DRSP) was conceived by Church of the Brethren members Bob and Rachel Gross in 1978. The combination of Bob's prison experience and Rachel's enjoyment of letter-writing, along with their concern about the reinstatement of the death penalty, provided the necessary ingredients for beginning this ministry. Also critical was the support of the Washington office of the Church of the Brethren, and now the Brethren Witness Office.

In 1978, there were 400 people under sentence of death in the U.S. Now there are over 3800. Needless to say, the little card file that was used at the beginning of the project has long since been outgrown; Rachel is very grateful for the evolution of computer technology in the last 22 years!

Initially, the project was publicized within the Church of the Brethren. But, as is the case with many CoB efforts, DRSP has become an ecumenical effort, with the largest number of participants coming from the Roman Catholic and Seventh Day Adventist Churches.

Rachel receives mail daily from prisoners who would like have a "pen pal." At about the same rate, requests from the "outside" world come from persons who are interested in reaching out to those on death row. DRSP has provided an excellent way for those on death row to know that they are not forgotten, and for those outside to learn about the real people and stories behind the issue of the death penalty.

Writing to a person on death row is not something which should be entered into lightly. Currently, the average stay of someone on death row is ten years. Writing to that person is a long-term commitment! One of Rachel's disappointments as coordinator of DRSP is that many people write a letter or two to the person in prison, and then decide they're really not interested after all. She encourages those that are interested to prayerfully consider before requesting the name of someone. Rachel is glad for people to ask questions, and she can also try to put you in touch with other people who have been writing, in order to gain a better understanding of what is involved.

Within the Church of the Brethren, some individuals have chosen to be involved with DRSP as a Sunday School class, or as a youth group. This has worked very well, as folks can provide support for each other in writing, and also are able to reach out to the person on death row in a fuller way. At one time, students from Manchester College traveled to the Indiana State Prison bi-monthly in order to visit several men on death row.

Because Rachel works as a volunteer from her home, "office hours" are irregular. But please do call or write if you have additional questions about how you might become involved in writing to someone on death row. If you are ready to request the name of someone, please indicate that. Within a few weeks, you will receive the name and address of someone on death row, along with suggestions for beginning the correspondence.

For more information please contact:
Death Row Support Project
PO Box 600
Liberty Mills, IN 46946
(260) 982-7480


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